Beryl on Scouse

There was a discussion about accent on yesterday’s BBC radio 4 programme “PM“.

Here’s my transcript of most of it:

Eddie Mair: A survey has found that more than a third of employees have changed their accent in order to impress their boss and improve their career prospects. … [They] said they had had difficulties being understood. The Queen’s English came out top in terms of being easiest to understand and the most professional. The Liverpudlian, Mancunian and Midlands accents came out bottom. … Liverpudlians were the most willing to change their accent.

Beryl Bainbridge: It seems to me that everybody is completely at ease with the way that they speak, and the worse they speak, they don’t seem to worry at all. … I do see a tremendous change in the way people speak English; it’s dreadful.

In [the 1940s] the Liverpool accent wasn’t at all the same as it is now. My father … didn’t have the accent that they speak with today. And that’s because … they taught elocution in schools in order to preserve the language and to pronounce things properly.

(Where did what we currently understand as being the Liverpool accent come from?)

I think television, the soaps, had an awful lot to do with it. The accent in Liverpool doubled and trebled as soon as something like Brookside came on: the whinging tones and the dreadful vowels. … That’s not the way Liverpudlians talked. … You may have got a slightly heavier accent in a place like Scotland Road but that faded out in the 60s. …

There are still various vowels that I get wrong sometimes. …

I agree that some accents are alright. An Irish accent is rather pleasant and so’s a Welsh one and a Lancashire one, but they’re actual proper accents. …

I think [the Liverpool accent] is the most hideous accent of all. … The Beatles didn’t have that Liverpool accent. … [The accent] needn’t change to the extent that when you hear people from Liverpool being interviewed they sound uneducated. … They sound as though they don’t know how to speak properly, and that’s part of one’s education. That if there’s a word and it’s pronounced in a certain way by most people, then that’s how you should pronounce it. You don’t have to distort it. …

Dave Kirby: What a boring world we would be in if everyone went round speaking [the same]. … There’s a new type of Liverpool youngster now who talks with a bit of a scallywag drawl … but [the accent] hasn’t changed that much. The Beatles are an exception; they were from South Liverpool, [whose dialect] tends to be a lot slower. … The North Enders talk a lot faster and we used to be told to slow down. … Liverpool’s got the most call centres in the North because Liverpudlians have got a friendly accent. … It’s funny that [Beryl] mentions the Irish, Welsh [and Lancashire] accents, because the Liverpool accent is a mixture of all those accents.

It’s difficult to make an objective comparison, but here’s one example of Liverpool people speaking 40 years ago: Nick Broomfield’s documentary “Who Cares“.

Lellow and Elsh

As Catherine has learned to speak, she has corrected nearly all her early mispronunciations, but one that’s stuck is “lellow” (the colour of a banana). When I finally got round to googling this phenomenon, I found that Neal Whitman wrote quite a bit about it a couple of years ago. Googling also turns up Lellow as Alicia Keys’ nickname. I wonder how long it’ll take Catherine (who’s 4, by the way) to grow out of it? (We’re certainly not going to force her out of it.)

This month we went to Tenby on holiday, and after a couple of days she added a new word to her vocabulary: “Elsh” (the language and people of Wales). Criminally cute, and no sightings on Google.

Update: C is keen on Intrusive L. She says, for example, “Gelloff” for “Get off.”